Two College pupils Abby Aitken (4th, Ch)and Rob Caesar (4th, S) are taking part in an exchange with Groton School in Massachusetts. Groton School was founded by Old Cheltonian, the Reverend Endicott Peabody in 1884 and still has links with College today. You can read Abby's blog about her experience at Groton here, and Rob's blog is available here.
Day 1 – 15 September 2015
A two-hour drive to Heathrow Airport started my journey to Groton. Following a quick lunch and my father’s increasingly panicked exclamations of, “You’re making a cake? When we’re supposed to be leaving in five minutes?” (it was two mug cakes, so they can in fact be made in under five minutes) we set off, bags packed.
Even though we left three minutes later than planned we still arrived two hours early, so met up with Rob and his mum for a coffee. After a chat, we left our probably-more-nervous-than-us parents behind to go through security (in which I had to get scanned and Rob had to get his bag searched.
We finally got on the plane, and thus proceeded to watch movies back to back on the tiny screens until our eyes were red with the light. Seven hours or so later, we started to catch a glimpse of the American coastline. As we landed to orange sunsets gleaming off the water (and the numerous small islands that we were contemplating the price of) it struck us that we were here. In America. And wow, it was hot when you stepped out of the airport. “It’s like a Mediterranean country” Rob remarked, and I couldn’t agree more, the heat being rather more than a citizen of the United Kingdom was quite used to in September.
We were picked up Mr Das, the teacher organising the trip, who drove us to Groton with two Bedales School exchange students, Anna and Orlando. I noticed lots of billboards and many high-rises, but not much else, because my eyes got tired pretty quickly, staring at yet more bright lights. We arrived, and I noticed the intricately patterned gates, but everything else was hidden by the darkness, because it was now around 21.00 in Groton. A group of about eight or nine Groton students greeted us, and we were promptly taken to our dorms. In Groton, a dorm is the same as a boarding house, with about 20 - 30 people in each dorm. The dorm I am in, Leroy’s, has a lumberjack theme (as all the dorms have themes) so drawings of axes and fake leaves adorned the walls, with plaid making numerous appearances too. “Once you lumberjack, you never lumberback” read the paper letters stuck up in the common room, all orange and brown and red, matching the leaves. I unpacked, and then we had ‘check in’. This is a tradition that is similar to ‘sign in’ or ‘roll call’ at College, where everyone sits in the common room and notices are read out. However, instead of a register being completed, everyone has to shake hands with the prefects and head of dorm before going to sleep. So I shake hands, I brush my teeth, and then I go to bed, and I am very tired now.
Day 2 – 16 September 2015
If I still did ‘Word of the Day’, today’s word would have to be scorching. Or sweltering. Or stifling (well, you get the idea). It was 29 degrees at it’s hottest, and I’m already talking about the weather; how British.
Luckily for (jet-lagged) me, on Thursdays pupils are allowed to lie in until around 9.00ish, because there is no Chapel. We went to breakfast, and then lessons, which are all in the newly-renovated School House building. Due to this recent refurbishment, and the fact that the rest of the students only got back to school on 13 September, everyone seemed to still be finding their way around, so I wasn’t too out of place. The classes are numbered, making it quite easy to simply follow them until you find the room you are supposed to be in.
Lunch followed my three lessons, so there was a mass migration in order to eat in the dining room. The dining room is about half the size of College’s (since the amount of pupils is about half as well), but just as filled with people and ceaseless chat. There is a canteen-style section, and numerous drinks machines, which dispense all manner of chocolate milk, juices and ‘reinforced water’ (I still don’t really know what that is!). Games follow shortly after lunch on Thursdays, so I went off to field hockey, which is actually on a field, as opposed to England’s numerous Astros. Others did sports such as soccer, cross-country, dance, American football and drama.
Dinner was at 17.00, then free time until ‘Study Hall’, the Groton equivalent to prep, except it starts at 20.00 and finishes at 22.00! When Study Hall finishes, and I have finally finished my maths homework we go to check in again, as happens every night. However, on this night, as is custom towards the beginning of the year, a boys’ dorm saunters into Leroy’s wearing blazers and ties to ‘propose’ to the dorm. This means that the two dorms would be ‘married’, and after asking what this entailed, I was told, “Sometimes they bring us food”, which seemed like a perfectly good reason to get married to me! They read a poem, and after a quick discussion, the dorm decides that yes, we will accept their proposal. They leave, and the head of dorm assures us that don’t worry, we can always have a brother dorm as well, so that equals more food. With people chatting about the donuts that last year’s ‘husband’ dorm brought, and wondering what this new boys’ dorm will provide, we trail upstairs to bed.